Design studies. One of the key difficulties of briefing is that it is a very textual, and thus rather abstract, exercise. Needs and ambitions are captured in words and numbers, which can be interpreted in many different ways. This openness is advantageous and deliberate because it gives the design team the freedom to come up with inventive solutions. But it can also lead to misunderstandings on the part of the client and users. Think of responses like: We thought it would be more likeor This is not really what we had in mind. Design studies can help to reduce the chance of such misunderstandings. Diagrammatic floor plans, sketches and reference images can be used to guide discussions about quality with users, explaining how particular requirements may work out in practice. In a school project, for example, there may be a discussion about the size of classrooms: should these be 50 or 60 square metres in size? Such discussions are very abstract if there is only an Excel sheet to look at, especially for laymen. In such a case, it will be extremely helpful to develop a set of floor plans that visualize the difference between the various options. It is important to note, however, that during the briefing phases, design studies should remain basic and conceptual. They should facilitate discussions about capacity, density and usability, and stay away from detailed design issues such as furniture, colours or materials, because otherwise the briefing process starts to interfere too much with the design process. Design studies can also be used as a reality check of the contents of the brief before it is finalized. The purpose then is to test the feasibility of the assumptions about sizes and capacities, in particular in relation to budget. For example: if a brief calls for a large number of parking spaces on a tight location, it will be useful to do an early design study to check whether the desired number of parking spaces can indeed be created on site, or whether an underground parking garage is called for, which would have significant budgetary implications. Conducting such a test will help to avoid unwelcome surprises during the formal design process and it will help fine-tune the brief and the projects budget. Recommendations-Use prototypical designs to explain the pros and cons of different concepts (e.g. open-plan offices, cellular offices and activity-based offices) to decisions makers and users. -Keep design prototypes sketchy and diagrammatic. Details and materialization should be avoided. -Generate feedback about design prototypes through focus groups and workshops.-Consider involving users in the development of design prototypes.-Focus on functional properties (works like ) and not on the actual design (looks like ).-If the design team is already on board, make them responsible for developing the prototypes.